Currently the holder of the Guinness World Record for the longest barbecue grill that it garnered in April 2014, Bayambang successfully acquired another Guinness record, this time for the world’s tallest bamboo sculpture (supported) of a religious figure.
Pista’y Baley, the Pangasinan term for pistang bayan or town fiesta, is one of the grandest and most revered celebrations of Bayambang in the third district of the vote-rich province of Pangasinan. It is the annual moment when the people of all 77 barangays of the town come together in witness and a salient part of a series of revelries where their unity and camaraderie are manifested.
Year after year, Pista’y Baley attracts hordes of visitors from all over the country. Family members of Bayambangueños from other provinces and foreign and local tourists visit Bayambang to enjoy the merriment that only Pista’y Baley offers.
Homage to the town patron, Saint Vincent Ferrer
This year, Pista’y Baley focuses on the commemoration of the two milestones of the town’s parish, namely the 600th death anniversary and the quadricentennial (400th year) of the presence of the town’s patron saint, Saint Vincent Ferrer, in the municipality. Balon Bayambang (New Bayambang) hence prepares for a week filled with merriment and exuberance, April 5, 2019 being also the 405th Pista’y Baley and which will highlight the Jubilee celebration of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Church.
Due to the damages brought about by the elements and natural calamities, the church has undergone some repairs and structural changes from the time it was built to the present.
Dr. Clarita Jimenez, one of the most prominent daughters of Bayambang, describes the church as, “A silent witness to the town’s history of trials and triumphs. Above all, it has been a solemn sanctuary for prayer and worship for the religious, industrious, cooperative, and friendly parishioners.”
Bayambang is also most fortunate and privileged to have a remnant of the saint in its possession. In a chalice strategically installed at the center of the Prayer Room of the parish can be found a relic of Saint Vincent Ferrer. While deep in prayer to feel as though the saint is there with them, devotees can glance at the relic as they search for something deeper within themselves and feel a comforting presence that guides their souls.
One of greatest miracle workers in the history of the Catholic Church, St. Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419) moved in the limelight before both ordinary and great people of the world. St. Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican priest, was born in Valencia, Spain on January 23, 1350 to Guillem Ferrer and Constancia Miquel who were both nobles. He entered the Dominican order at the age of 15 and was ordained priest in 1378.
This Dominican preacher lived during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of the church, during the time of the Western Schism. St. Vincent preached not only in Spain and France but also in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.
The patron saint of builders
St. Vincent Ferrer is the patron saint of builders because of his fame for “building up” and strengthening the Church: through his preaching, missionary work, and his teachings.
All his life he felt that he was called to carry the gospel not only to Christians, but also the Jews, the Muslims, and some heretical sects. Some would consider it a conservative estimate that St. Vincent Ferrer converted 25,000 Jews and 8,000 Moors; his total number of conversions was around 200,000 souls, among them Moors, Jews, heretics, and apostate Catholics.
Reputed to have received the gift of tongues, St. Vincent once converted 10,000 Jews at one time by marching right into their synagogue and preaching to them. Consequently, the Jews turned their synagogue into a Catholic Church.
Epic accolade to Bayambang’s overseer and guardian
Saint Vincent Ferrer has been a beacon of faith in Bayambang for hundreds of years, and his presence has been incessantly felt by Bayambangueños through the Saint Vincent Ferrer Parish Church. He remains to be a symbol of devotion for the people of Bayambang, and the influence that he has had on the local culture is undeniable.
Many devotees of St. Vincent Ferrer believe that it is their revered patron who perpetually saves them from the onslaught of natural calamities. Historical archives have it that near Palma of Majorca, St. Vincent Ferrer stilled a storm in order to preach from a wharf. At Beziers he stopped a flood. And Bayambang, which he oversees as the patron saint, was saved on several occasions from natural calamities.
The groundbreaking ceremony held on June 20, 2018 marked the beginning of a bigger and better future for the town. Saint Vincent Ferrer’s 50.23-meter monument was erected in Barangay Bani as a testament to the Bayambangueños’ never-ending love for and gratitude to the patron saint of builders.
The park will serve as a place of serenity, not just for Bayambangueños, but for anyone seeking spiritual help and guidance.
Standing at 50.23 meters high, this monumental structure made of steel and engineered bamboo currently holds the Guinness World Record for the Tallest Bamboo Sculpture (Supported) of Saint Vincent Ferrer, making it a valuable tourist spot in Pangasinan and Northern Luzon.
Tourists and visitors will look up in astonishment as they gaze upon the height of the image as a symbol of the Bayambangueños’ faith and devotion to the patron saint of builders.
A winged statue
St. Vincent Ferrer identified himself as “The Angel of the Judgment” and preached as if the end of the world were near. He is often pictured with wings. Religious data indicate accounts which state that multitudes of people have witnessed him, in the middle of preaching, suddenly assume wings and fly off to help some suffering person. He would return in the same manner and continue preaching.
St. Vincent was also renowned as a healer. At the gates of Vannes he cured a great number of the sick. At Guerande he delivered a man possessed by the devil and more dead than alive.
In France he had the British victors at Caen praying together with the defeated French for a sick man, who was then cured–and all of them, enemies or not, shouted for joy. At Leride he cured a cripple in the presence of the king.
St. Vincent is also known to have summoned dead people back to life. The author, Fr. Andrew Pradel, states that St. Vincent Ferrer “resuscitated more than 30 persons during his lifetime.”
As such, he was believed to be the “Angel of the Judgment.” In his own words, he declared while preaching to thousands at Salamanca: “I am the Angel of the Apocalypse and am preaching Judgment!” Then he proceeded to prove his claim by ordering a dead woman to return to life. To the awe of said multitude in Salamanca, the dead woman sat up.
Prayer Park with chapel, fountains, candle-lighting area and business stalls
The current parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Church, Rev. Fr. Allen O. Romero, said that the land from God is being developed to become “a beautiful place where people can go and have peace of mind, where pilgrims from different places can visit, and where people can pray and meditate and venerate our patron.”
A chapel will be situated just beside the statue to serve as a place of meditation where devotees can find peace and serenity during their visit. The chapel is added to the master plan because, despite the expected influx of tourists, there needs to be a solemn spot where they can pray and reflect.
At the center of the rotunda will be a fountain, a calming presence to welcome visitors to the Prayer Park. The water element is added to the park because of the weight of its importance to Catholicism. For Catholics, water is a symbol for purification and cleansing. This is why Catholics dip their fingers in holy water before attending a holy mass and why water is poured over a baby’s head during baptism. This element adds to the overall solemnity and tranquility of the Saint Vincent Ferrer Prayer Park.
Like any other religious spaces, an area where devotees can light candles is important to have. At the Saint Vincent Ferrer Prayer Park, the candle-lighting area is situated just at the back of the 50.23-meter high structure. It will be a spot where devotees can pray for the illumination of their minds and souls, and as the light from the candle keeps glowing, the faith of the devotees keeps on burning.
Situated near the chapel and candle-lighting area are the stalls that will be erected to provide a venue where devotees can buy their food, candles, or souvenirs.
Because the park is expected to attract many tourists from all around the Philippines and even the world, Bayambangueños would like to showcase what else the town has to offer by marketing the different delicacies and products that are proudly made in Bayambang.
Aside from marketing the prides of the town, this will also give the locals a great source of revenue, which is one of the major goals of the project.